Seattle, Washington’s very own progressive rock group, Gumshen, is expected to release their seventh studio album, Progtronica, February 11, 2014. The four-man group has been churning up records since 2007 at a rate of about one album per year with the exception of last year. However, one might attribute their 2013 hiatus to the development and exploration of a newly arrived sound, one in which lends itself to an inventive album title.
Some might argue that Progtronica is quite an audacious label, as if the band were affirming responsibility for breaking new genre ground. Which begs the question of whether or not they actually did? Well… has anyone done anything truly original in the past some-odd years? Yikes loaded question, it’s a rhetorical one; the answer is not so much, at least not in this case. That goes without saying—whatever implicit notion it may suggest—Gumshen’s mixture of rock and electronica does give some credence to the self-proclaimed title.
If you’re familiar with their work then you already know Gumpshen draws inspiration from the likes of Pink Floyd, Radio Head, and Genesis, but if they’re a new blip on your indie rock radar then this won’t come as a surprise after exploring Progtronica’s atmospheric soundscape. The album launches into ‘Bell Ringer,’ one of the more danceable numbers in the six-track LP: heavy bass grooves, accompanied with stern vocals, and a cosmic synth solo drive this undulating number. By the time you arrive at ‘Stipulation’ the momentum isn’t there, but that’s okay you’ve entered new territory. Turntable scratches embellish rhythmic vocal lines and squeaky synths, the result? Summertime fun; something you’d hear in a high school teen flick circa 1999. Lyrically ‘Fine One to Talk’ isn’t perfectly functional but maintains a sincerity that’s instrumentally poetic; you might even find yourself swept away by the rich texture of sounds. The final three tracks are engaging, yet drift further away from any remnants of what the first track and/or title suggest of the work as a whole.
All things considered, Progtronica is a splendid effort at something that seems to have missed its mark, but not totally. It certainly has its moments and it definitely personifies the album title. However, there’s an obvious lack of cohesion between tracks and than a less obvious one between arrangements and instrumentation within them. It’s as if Gumshen followed their instincts and were lead to a necessary stage of development, yet haven’t quite etched-out a distinctive sound. That said, Gumshen is on the verge of something great; I’d recommend Progtronica to anyone with an appetite for indie rock.
Similar sounds: Postal Service, Gorillaz, Genesis, and Talking Heads.